Today I´m going to introduce you a guy who ask for a chance in progressive business because no one wants to work with him. He´s a Dutch guy named Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
OK, no jokes. Save that your record collection is only composed by Britney
Spears or Anastacia CDs, it´s
sure that in many of your CDs (Glasshammer, Nolan
and Wakeman,...) Arjen´s name is written.
In the same way it´s also sure that you have Ayreon´s CDs
reviewAfter the great Ayreon albums and some experiments with more or less success (from the interesting update of pop and rock history with "Strange Hobby" until the boring ambient experiment called "Ambeon" ... don´t think I love everything this guy does), Arjen has created a new creature named Star One after having left Transmission Records and signed for Inside Out. With Star One Arjen shows his heavier side and captures his fascination for sci-fi movies, creating a style which evolves from the sound of the "hard" album of "Migrator" saga. This time, instead of using lots of guest stars, the main musicians are the drummer Ed Warby (Gorefest) and the "king of the analogue keyboard" Erik Norlander. The keyboardist Jens Johansson (ex Malmsteen, Stratovarius) and guitarist Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) are in charge of playing great and fast "guitar vs. keys" wars (don´t miss "Master of Darkness" ... the "war of solos" is based on "Darth Vader" - Luke Skywalker´s duel!!). Of course Arjen plays guitars, bass, hammond, mellotron, strings and analog synths.
And the singers?... well, there are many and well known. But this time Arjen´s criterion has been very original: Dan Swano (Nightingale) sings the lowest parts; Russell Allen (Symphony X) sings the most powerful parts; Damian Wilson (ex Threshold) sings the highest parts; and Floor Jansen (After Forever) sings the soprano parts. Robert Soeterboek sings backing vocals and later on I´ll tell you something about a very special guest in the bonus CD.
The album is not a conceptual album, although it follows the same conceptual line: all the tracks are inspired by sci-fi films and TV series. The artwork is really wonderful and it remains me to Boston´s debut CD, with a back cover with Arjen´s silhouette before the space city. Moreover, and as happens with Inside Out "de luxe" releases, there is a first limited edition with bonus CD.
I´m not going to review the CD in depth because I think it´s better to talk about Arjen´s musical proposal. Star One´s music is an evolution of the sound of "Migrator´s" "heavy" CD; I mean, songs with catchy vocal melodies, amazing guitar solos and epic analogue keyboard solos and soundscapes by Erik Norlander (for me one of the best keyboardists in the world, who maintains a deep love for vintage sounds of hammonds, moogs, etc.) and Arjen himself, a virtuoso playing both guitars and keyboards. Also we have to add spacey atmospheres and sound effects which take us to the deep space. I would say that the sound of this CD is a great mixture with Deep Purple ("Perfect Strangers" era), Hawkwind, and Pink Floyd´s elements. Intelligent heavy metal in the XXI Century.
The bonus CD opens with a long "Hawkwind Medley". Arjen is a big fan of the band that created space rock (and so am I) and the legendary David Brock sings in this medley, that contains fragments taken from their most famous tracks ("Master of the Universe", "Silver Machine", "Psychedelic Warriors",...). We also find a sinister cover of Bowie´s "Space Oddity" with vocoder and a new melody in the refrain, a Dolby Pro-Logic version of "Starchild" and three more songs.
OK, I understand there are people who think Arjen doesn´t own a creative instinct (I don´t agree but...). And I admit that he has a large wardrobe with many clothes (heavy metal, space rock, etc.) and he chooses a different one depending on the audience he wants to reach. But I also admit that he always does it well (hmmm.... not always but almost). Having signed for Inside Out -more promotion- this CD is a big step for Arjen´s career. All kind of audiences will enjoy with Star One's "Space metal", from Edguy´s teenager fan until the powerful progressive metal fan. In any case, you´ll like it or not, but "Space metal" has lots of quality inside.